It’s hard to fathom sharing a body with another person, but for conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel, it’s their reality. Lucky for the curious person, their show was featured on TLC along shows such as My Strange Addiction, Little People Big World, Say Yes to the Dress and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. But, Abby & Brittany’s show seemed to be at the top of the list. They have such different personalities and they can sometimes remind us of our own sibling rivalry, although theirs comes at a different cost. While the twins share the same body, they have several organs that are separate, including the heart, stomach, spine, lungs, and spinal cord. Conjoined twins are a incredibly rare to come by, which is why Abby and Brittany’s condition has generated so much curiosity and has been featured by numerous media outlets. The show goes into depth about how they live their lives as conjoined twins but it doesn’t show every detail in their lives! Here’s everything you need to know about the twins that’s not featured on their hit show.
The Parents Chose Not To Separate The Twins
Abby and Brittany’s parents immediately rejected the option to separate the twins because the doctors said it was unlikely that both would survive the operation. In fact, Abby and Brittany are one of the rarest set of dicephalic parapagus twins in the world meaning conjoined with separate heads and one body. There are many different kinds of conjoined twins, with Abby and Brittany making up 11 percent of those conjoined twins. In fact, conjoined twins only occur once every 200,000 live births, and their survival is anything but assured, making these girls quite the miracle.
Their Show Began as a Documentary
When Abby and Brittany turned 16, TLC asked them to film a documentary for their channel. They decided to agree to do the documentary. It covered everything in their daily lives, along with their plans for the future. Due to it’s success with audiences, they got their own show that lasted only one short season with only 8 episodes entitled, “22nd Birthday Bash, Spring Break, Here We Come, Road Trip!, Graduation, London, Italy, Big Moves, and The Real World.”
It Took Extreme Coordination in Order For The Girls To Learn To Do Normal Things
Growing up, learning how to crawl, clap or walk was difficult because they had to coordinate with the other. Each twin controls half of their body, operating one of the arms and one of the legs. Each of them are able to eat and write separately and simultaneously, however, certain activities like running and swimming must be coordinated.
They Were Born With Another Ligament
Another surprising factor about their birth was that the twins were actually born with another ligament at birth if you can believe it. They were born with an arm protruding from their necks. The doctors had to surgically remove the arm so that only the shoulder blade was left.
They’ve Have Struggled Since The Very Beginning
Obviously, the early stages of development did not go as smooth for them as it did with other children. Their parents revealed that just crawling had been an insanely difficult task for the twins. So, imagine them trying to walk! From an early age the two had to learn to coordinate their movements so they could walk as one. Eventually the toddlers learned to move in sync.
They Walk Completely Different From Each Other
These days, the girls have developed their own individual walking styles. If you walk close enough, you will notice Brittany walks on the tips of her toes, while her sister, Abby, walks flat footed. It’s because of these differences, that they appear to be limping. However, it is not a limp, just their own unique walking pattern.
They Had To Take Their Driver’s Test, Twice
In addition to everything else the twins can do, they can even drive a car. Because the twins are two individual people, they had to take the written and driving test twice, one for each twin. When driving, Abby controls everything on the right of the driver’s seat and Brittany on the left. Their mother had a huge fear about them driving saying, “I don’t know what would happen if they got pulled over for speeding. Would they each get a ticket or just Abby because it’s her foot on the accelerator?”
They Have Different Weaknesses and Strengths
One very interesting thing about these twins is their interests. Their respective interests and strengths turned out to have complimented each other very well. While Brittany is a very proficient writer, Abby prefers math. Despite the two excelling in these opposite subjects, they work together in school very well. In fact, instead of pursuing a degree through an online college, they decided to attend and graduate from a local one. The twins attended Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota where they both majored in education. After hard work and overcoming adversity, the two graduated from the university together in 2012.
They Construct Their Emails As One Person
Something you may find interesting about the twins is the way they conduct an email. Although they are two very distinct and different people, they construct emails as only one person. When responding to emails, they’ll write as just one person. Apparently, since they are deeply sensitive to each other’s feelings with little to no oral communication needed, it helps them write faster.
They Have Very Different Interests and Dislikes
Although they share the same body, and write emails as the same person, these girls have totally different interests and dislikes. One example of this would be their personal preferences or clothing styles. They decided to hire a seamstress in order to express their individuality and add a custom neckline to all of their clothing.
They Moved Into Their First Home Together
After graduating from college, the two girls moved into their first home together. This obviously marked a huge milestone in their lives, as it would for basically anyone. TLC decided to use this big milestone as the focus for their show. On the show you could see the twins decorating and prepping for their first ever part-time job as teachers. The girls have their own degree, and their own teaching license as well. However, they are only paid one salary since their job is done technically by one person.
They Hope To Have Their Own Family and Husband’s One Day
You’re probably wondering about the girl’s love lives. Well, just like many young women all around the world, Abby and Brittany hope to one day fall in love and be married with children. They do realize that their conjoined body creates for a bit of an obstacle, but they still believe they will find two separate men for the two of them.
There have been plenty of cases seen where conjoined twins are able to find men who are understanding of their needs and that are able to handle all the health issues that come with being a conjoined twin.
They Hate When People Take Photos Of Them
You probably thought that because the twins are on television, it probably means that they love being filmed and photographed. However, they’ve voiced their opinions about how they feel about being caught on camera. They say that their biggest pet peeve is people gawking at them or taking photos. Of course, the twins have said they don’t mind if people ask for a photo, but without permission is an absolute no.
They Went On The Oprah Show When They Were Six Years Old
Of course, Oprah wanted to meet the girls herself, and was curious about how they lived their life. When the girls turned six, Oprah invited them to be on her show. Although Abby and Brittany have claimed that they do not recall much of the appearance, it was still the world’s first peek into their world. This episode gained a lot of buzz, and fans received them with complete admiration.
Just Because One Gets Sick, Doesn’t Mean The Other Gets Sick Too
Since they are two separate individuals, one can get sick while the other twin stays healthy! Brittany has suffered from pneumonia twice while Abby hasn’t had it at all. This baffled doctors for a while and still intrigues medical professionals. But one thing doctors concluded about this peculiarity is that the girls have a pair of their organs, such as two hearts and two pairs of lungs.
Their Interested In Music, and See A Possible Future In It
Although the girls are interested in sports such as volleyball and bowling in particular, they claim their real interests are in music. They have said that they adore music and they spend much of their time trying to play new instruments. They have said they hope to master many of these new interests as time goes on. Their musical abilities impressed doctors. While playing piano, Brittany would handle the left hand bass keys while Abby would play the treble keys on the right.
They Eat Two Separate Meals, and Like Different Food
You may think that they save money on meals but this is not the case. As mentioned before, each girl has her own stomach, so naturally they both eat two separate meals. As mentioned, the two may share a body, but they have two separate stomachs, along with two separate tastes in food.
They’ve Had To Compromise On A Lot Including Sleep Schedules
Although the two have figured out a way to make living together in one body work, one still needs to remember that there are many things the twins have had to compromise on. Imagine having to compromise on everything in life down to eating and sleeping schedules. Luckily enough, they’ve perfected it! If it was hard to compromise sleeping schedules with your college roommate, imagine this!
Doctor’s Are Still Incredibly Worried About Their Future
Despite how the girls have managed to thrive and live a somewhat normal life, doctor’s are still very concerned for the future. They fear that as the girls age, their health may deteriorate. As they grow older, there is the concern of heart failure or other organ defects that could come with age. Luckily for the twins so far, they’ve stayed in excellent shape since birth.
They’ve Decided To Remain Out Of The Spotlight Since The Show Ended
At 27-years old, the twins have decided to remain out of the spotlight. They live very low key lives, and things have simmered down a lot since their days in the spotlight. They have no regrets about doing the television show, and they feel as though all of the TV and media appearances helped fight back against stereotypes and misinformation about conjoined twins.
They Have Separate Passports
Sure, this is a given. Especially, when we mentioned that the girls are two separate people, so it only makes sense they need two separate passports. The good part is that they only need to purchase one ticket for the airplane, seeing as they’ll only need one seat. That doesn’t sound too bad!
They React Differently To Different Substances
It’s interesting to note how the girls react differently to certain things. For example, coffee has a different effect on the two of them.While Abby does not seem to be affected much by the caffeine, Brittany’s heart rate increases dramatically.
In Fact, There Are Many Different Types of Conjoined Twins
There are over a dozen classifications for conjoined twins all based on where the two siblings are connected. The most common form of conjoined twins are “Thoracopagus twins.” These twins are joined in the upper chest and they share a heart, making separation basically impossible. These twins make up about 40% of all conjoined twins. The second type that is most common is Omalaphagus. They are connected from the middle of the chest to the waist, and they do not share a heart. However, these types of conjoined twins can share a liver and even genitalia. They make up 33 percent of all conjoined twins. Craniopagus twins are conjoined at the head. Out of all conjoined twins, only two percent are born with this condition.
Conjoined Twins Are Always Born The Same Sex
Since conjoined twins are formed from the same fertilized egg, they are genetically identical, meaning they’re always the same sex. However, this doesn’t mean they always identify with the sex they were born. Like Abby and Brittany, Lori and George Schappell are another pair of famous conjoined twins. However George, who is a country music singer, didn’t always go by that name. He was actually born a female, and was named Dori and used the stage name Reba when performing He said, “I loved playing with trains and hated girly outfits. I kept my desire to change sex hidden, even from Lori for many years. “It was so tough, but I was getting older and I simply didn’t want to live a lie. I knew I had to live my life the way I wanted.” In 2007, he came out as trans.
Conjoined Twins Have Been Born For Thousands Of Years
The earliest recorded conjoined twins come out of the Byzantine Empire. The nameless twin boys were born in Armenia some time in the 10th century and later moved to what is now Turkey. One other very early case of conjoined twins dates back to 1100 in Kent, England. Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst were joined at the hip. They were known as the Biddenden Maids, and came from a very wealthy family. When they died, they left a lot of money to the Church of England.
If One Twin Dies, The Conjoined Twin Cannot Live Much Longer Afterwards
If they’re still conjoined, a twin cannot live very long if their other half dies. If the dead twin is not removed, or it is impossible to separate them, gangrene will begin spreading in living twins body, and they begin to decompose.
Sometimes Conjoined Male Twins Are Separated and The Gender Of One Is Changed
Changing an infant’s sex at birth without any inclination the child identifies with the opposite gender doesn’t seem like an ethical choice. This has happened on a few occasions with male conjoined twins who share genitalia. Since there was only one penis, surgeons chose one twin to give the penis to, while the other was given a constructed vagina. In one known case, the child who was given the vagina went back to living as male.
Statistics About Conjoined Twins
Conjoined twins are an extremely rare complication with identical twin pregnancies, occurring only once in every 200,000 pregnancies. It’s 70% more likely that conjoined twins will be female. Female babies are much stronger than male babies. Although male twins are more likely to conjoin the female sets are more likely to survive. About 50% of conjoined twins are stillborn and 35% survive for the first 24 hours.